Leeds United counting cost of defeat to Liverpool
Marcelo Bielsa was left to pick the bones out of a hugely frustrating afternoon for his Leeds United team as they were well beaten by Liverpool and lost two defenders for some already important games coming up.
Despite the backing of a full house at Elland Road, the Whites were torn apart at times and although they could count themselves unlucky not to score the final 3-0 scoreline did not flatter their visitors.
The defeat had an added extra cost with Spanish centre-back Diego Llorente limping off with a first half injury and Pascal Struijk being shown a second half red card that although harsh looks likely to keep him out of the team for three matches.
With Robin Koch already sidelined it leaves Leeds with just one of their four recognised centre-halves, although Luke Ayling can go in there for the key league game coming up at Newcastle on Friday night with Stuart Dallas fitting in to his right-back spot.
The sending off was tough on Struijk who came on as substitute for Llorente in the 33rd minute and got his marching orders 30 minutes later.
His tackle did lead to Liverpool youngster Harvey Elliott being stretchered off with a bad ankle injury, but there was no intent in the Leeds defender's actions and he did win the ball.
Indeed it brought about one of the loudest roars of the day when he won the ball as it looked to initially lift his Whites team and referee Craig Pawson did not initially see it as a foul.
It was not the only inconsistency from the official as he angered home fans with a number of strange decisions through the game and was subject to the usual pleasantries from the stands.
Head coach Bielsa rarely criticises officials, but had sympathy for Struijk as well as Liverpool midfielder Elliott.
He said: “Pascal recovered the ball.
“The actions to get the ball didn’t have an infraction but I have the feeling the rest of the movement of his body after he recovered the ball made him hit Elliott.
“I am totally sure that there was no bad intention, I don’t know how to qualify it, but obviously there was some imprudence or an excess of power.
“These types of recoveries of the ball are totally frequent, the difference here is that the follow through with Pascal’s speed or power clipped the player and caused the injury.
“I regret dearly that such a young player playing at such a high level has been interrupted by this, I hope he’s able to get back.”
Bielsa admitted his team were second best at times against Liverpool
He added: “Evidently, the way I planned for the game didn’t allow for our forwards to shine.
“They managed to get their forwards into the game to create danger and chances. Every time we lost the ball, the opponents created danger.
“But, we did have some balls in the first half that we thought would have created more danger or risk for the opponent.
“What Jurgen Klopp planned for facilitated the unbalance of the forwards and what I chose didn’t allow our very good forwards to create danger and shine in the game.
“I don’t think it was difficult to attack them in the first half because there were some very advantageous situations.
“As the first half wore on we started to lose control of the ball and it was difficult for us to recover it. When we recovered it, it was difficult for us to put passes together.
“I have already said that the way Liverpool planned their game allowed their creative players to shine. The way I proposed the game, the opposite, because our creative players didn’t perform."
Leeds could have been on the end of a much bigger score had Sadio Mane in particularly been sharper in front of goal, but they did manage some incredible last ditch blocks and goalkeeper Illan Meslier made some fine saves to keep the score down despite the visitors managing 30 efforts on goal.
At the other end United did not make the most of some promising build-up play with Patrick Bamford and half-time sub Tyler Roberts producing poor finishes that let Liverpool off the hook.
And they could have been ahead in the first five minutes as Raphinha found Rodrigo in space on the edge of the box, but the Spaniard despite taking a touch to control the ball could only shoot straight at Reds keeper Alisson.
The Whites did keep going even at two down and a man down and Bamford could have scored a goal of the season contender with a delicious chip from 50 yards out that had Alisson scrambling back to tip the ball over.
England man Kalvin Phillips did his best to keep United competitive, but Liverpool always looked likely to add to their tally and looked every bit the top four side they are.
Leeds are still without a win in the league this season and will drop into the bottom three if they suffer another defeat at Newcastle.
(Salah 20, Fabinho 50, Mane 90+2)
Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente (Struijk 33, sent-off 63), Cooper, Firpo; Phillips; Raphinha, Dallas, Rodrigo (Roberts 45), Harrison (James 67); Bamford.
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho; Thiago (Keita 90+3), Elliott (Henderson 63); Salah, Mane, Jota (Oxlade-Chamberlain 82).
Referee: Craig Pawson